Thesouth- faring Minnan ers
The “South Seas” was the Sinocentric name used in Ming and Qing China (1368–1912) to refer to the region of Southeast Asia, including the Malay, Philippine and Indian archipelagos, as well as the Indochina and Malay peninsulas. Historically, when the Chinese travelled to this area to make a living, it was called “traversing the South Seas” or “south-faring”. Among the hundreds of thousands of natives of the Minnan Region (southern Fujian), or “Minnaners”, who have traversed the South Seas over the past century, proceeding on toward the land of their dreams without hesitating or looking back, many remarkable stories have been borne of their journeys.
When Wong Nai Siong arrived here, he realized that while Chinese settlers had preceded him by many years, most of them were merchants and miners. He found it hard to believe that in a region with widely branching rivers, abundant rainfall, and convenient transportation, most of the land had yet to be cultivated.
The Rajang River is the largest in Sarawek, at over 500 kilometers in length. Wong Nai Siong performed detailed surveys of several locations along the Rajang River system, among which he chose Sibu to begin his work. He later returned to China and urged his friends, relatives and other locals from his hometown to sail to Sibu and claim their own land. According to historical records, through direct invitations by himself and indirect ones through friends and relatives, Wong Nai Siong brought a total of 1,118 people with him. They hailed from numerous places of Fujian, including Minqing, Minhou and Fuqing. Sometimes an entire village of men would be traveling together, carrying their own tools and seeds, followed in tow by their wives, children, and other family members. They had quite literally relocated their entire lives, to what they called Sungai Merah in Sibu, which they were building themselves.
When the settlers first reached Sibu, they constructed simple and temporary homes called “attaps”, six in total, each containing five homes. The Sibu region is very damp, thus to build their homes the settlers had to learn from the natives, who lived in what were called “longhouses”, which were balanced several meters off the ground on a “nest” of long, thin stilts. A single longhouse would accommodate 20-30 families, who resided in homes in a fashion much like the cars of a train. For the beams and pillars they used wood, all of which originated from nearby forests. In virtually all other places bamboo was used, including the floors, which were constructed of strips of bamboo laid together and covered with palm sheets for neatness concern. The bedrooms and kitchens of each unit were separated by sheets of bamboo, while the roofs